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The Scar Project

I came across The Scar Project over at The Hairpin. It’s a collection of photos of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. They’re pretty confronting to look at. It’s a devastating issue.

The mission statement talks a lot about empowerment of women and I’m interested in how this relates to their nakedness. Most of the women are topless and uncovered in their photos but there is little that is sexualised about them.

At one level, I feel annoyed that these women are not depicted in a sexualised way. As if, somehow, because of their disfigured breasts, they’re not feminine enough to be considered sexy. But of course, that’s just giving in to a culture that equates femininity with sexualisation. Nakedness and femininity can actually exist and complement each other without objectifying women. That’s the aim here: to celebrate these women and their femininity.

We could ask why their nakedness is important for empowerment. I think that operates on two levels. First, it says they don’t have anything to hide. Their scars do not need to be hidden away. Second, there is something deeply humanising to have both the women’s faces and their scarred breasts in the pictures. Not only are their scars not something to hide but they are part of them. ‘Breast cancer survivor’ is not all each woman is are but the boldness with which many of the women face the camera captures a willingness to be at peace with that experience. It takes tremendous strength to fight breast cancer and substantial courage to survive its aftermath.

I love the tagline: “Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon.” Definitely worth a look.

Categories: Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

1 reply

  1. That is incredibly confronting. I must admit I was initially repulsed by the first image, but I think that is my cultual wiring coming to the fore. I was also struck by the fact she is pregnant – I was thinking about how that woman misses out on breastfeeding. That deeply saddens me – that those breasts will never nurse that baby. (What does she do if her milk comes in and she has no nipple to get rid of it? I suppose she would take drugs that suppress milk production then? Or does she have no breast tissue left capable of making milk?)

    Anyway, I get sidetracked when breasts are the topic these days – it always ends up about breastfeeding. I really think of boobs differently after 3.5+ years of breastfeeding and seeing women getting their boobs out for babies and children 4+ years old (you only see that kind of thing in specific places in Australia, but yes, some Australian women don’t wean at 1).

    I think part of the lack of sexualisation is the lack of nipple(s). It seems to be in most magazines that we can be shown any amount of a women’s breast except for the nipple and that is “okay”.

    There is one woman whom you can tell has been crying – a tear has run down her cheek. It is a very powerful image for all its vulnerability.

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